Saturday’s Regional meets in Claremont, Calif. didn’t have quite the outcome for which the Whitworth Cross Country teams were hoping. The men’s team placed an overall sixth and the women 11th. Junior forerunner Joy Shufeldt, however, came in fifth overall, receiving an automatic invitation to the national competition next weekend. Circumstances weren’t ideal for the Pirates on Saturday. Key runners for the men, Senior Aaron Jenkins and Junior Trevor Berrian, were both battling illness. Likewise, Shufeldt said several female runners were also sick. Head coach Toby Schwarz also mentioned though travel isn’t an excuse, it definitely affected how the team competed.
Jenkins crossed the finish line first for Whitworth but 14th overall. He received an at-large bid to compete at nationals so will join Shufeldt in representing Whitworth next weekend in Oshkosh, Wis.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to finish off his senior year and college running career well,” Schwarz said of Jenkins.
Schwarz was disappointed by the team performances, but was complimentary of Shufeldt’s race and qualification for NCAA’s.
“It’s exciting that she’s qualified,” Schwarz said. “She deserves to go. [She’s] getting better and better every week.”
Though Shufeldt said she was pleased with her performance Saturday, she feels she can still improve.
“I feel I might’ve set my goals a little too low,” Shufeldt said. “Toby thinks I could have placed higher and I probably could have. But I’m excited to go to nationals.”
Shufeldt received All-American honors in 2009 as a freshman, but claimed she did not race as well at nationals last year. Both she and Schwarz said they are hoping for her to again receive that designation this year.
“It sets the bar high but it’s not unrealistic,” Shufeldt said.
Now with the team part of the season complete, Shufeldt, the key leader of the women’s squad all year, said she is proud of her teammates and what they accomplished this year.
“I’m really proud of the progress and I’m really proud of the girls even though we didn’t do maybe quite as well as we hoped,” Shufeldt said. “I’m excited for the chance for the girls to rest a little bit and get 100% healthy and start training hard again.”
In addition to the women gaining experience, Schwarz also expressed his pride in the men’s team for winning conference this season.
“It was a good season,” Schwarz said. “Men winning conference? Can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Next year the men will return ten runners, including Barrien and standout freshman Eli Deitz, and the senior-less women will return every runner for the 2012 season. But for now, Schwarz expressed the team’s relief in just being back home. He knows they will draw from the lessons from this season.
“I think every individual has different lessons that they’re going to learn,” Schwarz said. “That’s part of competing, when you have successes you don’t learn a lot, but when there’s failure you [do].”
Story By Sena Hughes